Est. 110 hp, 4,398 cc single overhead camshaft inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, front suspension via beam axle and semi-elliptical leaf springs, and rear suspension via live axle and semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 126"
The car eventually made its way to the United States, as it was purchased on 4 May, 1975 by Jon P. Wagner from Roy Carver, the Rolls-Royce distributor in Newport Beach, California. In Wagner, chassis B79KU found a wonderful new owner, as he was the National Director of the Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club. According to additional documentation with the car, he had it restored between 1979 and 1980 by Art Johnson of San Diego with a “new wood frame” and its aluminum body was described to be “as new”. The restoration was a sizable amount in those days.
Mr. Wagner later wrote about this car in a 1983 RROC newsletter (San Diego region). By the time he acquired B79KU, he already owned a 1959 Silver Cloud and a 20/25 Gurney Nutting Drophead Coupé built especially for Prince Ali Khan. He wrote glowingly of his Bentley 4 ½ Litre: “the difference between the 3,669 cc capacity of the 3 ½ Litre and the 4,257 cc of the 4 ½ Litre greatly influences the superior performance of the later. To sum up, the effect of the extra 588 cc gives the 4 ½ model the same acceleration potential in fourth gear as the 3 ½ has in third, due to its superior power-weight ratio.”
He continued, “The 4 ½ L. Bentley is capable of attaining top speed quickly, as would be expected of this remarkable machine, and if slowed in traffic it is also this ability to regain normal cruising speed smoothly that is so gratifying to the fortunate driver. Nor is this crescendo of acceleration gained with fuss and bother or clatter…it is a progressive surging forward accomplished with a comparative silence regardless of gears employed.”
Needless to say, Wagner was very fond of this car and actively participated in the Club, with newspaper clippings showing his involvement in the Cancer Society’s ASCOT Antique and Classic Car Show of 1985. In fact, he would own the car until 2002, a full 27 years. Thereafter, it was purchased by a collector in Louisville, Kentucky, from whose estate it was acquired by indiGO Classic Cars LLC. As presented, the car is reported to be period correct throughout, fitted with its original motor, number M2BA, and finished in black the way it was presented at the London Motor Show in 1937. It comes with an original owner’s “Handbook for Bentley 4 ½ Litre Car” as well as the aforementioned documentation, including copies of original titles.
In Mr. Wagner’s own words, “the ownership of an instrument of such sheer motoring delight as a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley provides one of the real pleasures of life, not to be denied oneself – especially so if you area really serious about living the best you can.” We couldn’t agree more.
The London Motor Show was one of the most important venues for notable coachbuilders, Vanden Plas, James Young and H.J. Mulliner included. The lovely 4 ½ Litre Drophead Coupé offered here, chassis B79KU, is documented in Michael Ellman-Brown’s book Bentley: The Silent Sports Car, 1931-1941 as having been displayed in 1937 on H.J. Mulliner’s stand at the Show, finished in black with a beige leather interior, precisely the way it is presented today. The hood was evidently concealed under a cover and it was equipped with a spare wheel - partially recessed under a cover in the boot lid. The car was delivered in late 1937 to its first owner, one S.F. Ely, Esq., after having been completed in August with a Mulliner Drophead Coupé body (number 4531).